‘I believe agriculture is the common thread that runs through the fabric of our society:’ NC State Employee Shares Her Experiences Working for CALS International Programs

WRITTEN BY: Olivia Rogers (Ogrogers@ncsu.edu)

This interview has been edited for clarity

Farzana Halim has been working for CALS international Programs since 2021. Halim got an undergraduate degree in Business administration. She then worked in the financial sector and took part in a market-development project that addressed inefficiencies along agricultural value chains in Bangladesh. That methodology trained her to look at agricultural problems systematically and devise market-driven sustainable solutions. She then moved on to study international studies and natural resource management at NC State. During this time, she got to work with both international development and state-level agriculture research. She worked closely with the Cooperative Extension and various farmers groups in North Carolina during graduate school. She then found her way to CALS International Programs and eventually assumed the role of CREdO Program Coordinator.


How long have you been working with NC State, specifically CALS IP?

My journey at NC State started almost a decade back when I first joined the Wolfpack as a graduate student. Since then, I have spent time on campus as both a graduate student and staff member. I have been working with CALS IP in my current role since early 2021. 


What is your title in CALS IP? What does your job entail? What programs are you in charge of?

My official title is CREdO (Connecting Research, Education and Outreach) Program Coordinator. CREdO initiative aims to expand the CALS’ research and outreach footprint globally. The idea of CREdO is based on the principles of land grant universities, with the goal of creating an enabling environment in which research is closely aligned with education and outreach to address the needs of the population. The US has experienced the benefits of having a land grant university system, specifically the significant social, economic and environmental impacts of locally relevant research. We work with a variety of institutions mandated with agriculture research, education and outreach efforts in different countries. By bringing together all these different institutions, we are able to share knowledge, expertise and resources to address systemic issues that limit agricultural productivity in those countries.  


What led you to work in this field?

I believe agriculture is the common thread that runs through the fabric of our society, whether we consciously think about it or not. I have always taken a keen personal interest in agricultural issues. My professional journey has led me to work on agriculture-related projects in both developed and developing countries. This, coupled with an interest in international development, made me interested in the work of CALS International Programs. I feel fortunate that my role encompasses both my personal and professional interests. 

Halim (Middle) with Cochran fellows from Vietnam visiting OG Nut Company, In California. 


What is unique about your position?

I get to interact and learn from numerous agricultural educators, scientists and policymakers from around the globe. I am always intrigued by the unique socio-cultural and economic factors that affect agriculture production and consumption in different countries. In each of our projects, any solution that researchers try to develop needs to address all these factors to make sure they are locally relevant and applicable. It is important to acknowledge that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. As a result, how we implement projects in one country setting may need to be translated differently in another country depending on the institutional arrangements and resources available. During this process, I have gotten the chance to learn about agricultural institutions, infrastructure, resources and practices in other countries. 


How is your work important to you and NC State?

As a former international student, I can attest to the importance of gaining academic and research experience beyond your comfort zone. So, my role in expanding NC State’s international collaboration holds personal significance to me. Under the CREdO initiative, we have focused on forming an expansive network of interdisciplinary collaborators. This will help pursue long-term, large-scale research projects in other countries and help position CALS as a leading research university in the world. This directly contributes to CALS’ strategic priority of transforming the international profile of the college. 


How is your work affecting global outreach?

One of my responsibilities is to identify opportunities for CALS faculty to engage in international research and outreach projects. These projects are multifaceted and often include components such as the capacity building of professionals in other countries, bringing international students to NC State for research work and engaging NC State faculty in collaborative research projects with researchers from other countries. All of these have an influence on the international recognition of CALS and NC State.


Hosting Borlaug Mentors at NC State for a focus group


In terms of successes, which accomplishments are you most proud of?

I recently helped organize the Building Partnerships for Health and Sustainable Agricultural Development in East Africa Symposium in September. This symposium helped to connect researchers, administrators and policymakers in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda. This event was the first of its kind on campus. Many NC State faculty members have been involved in implementing various projects in the aforementioned countries. Particularly, over the past three years, a large group of collaborators across several universities and research organizations in Kenya have worked closely with a group of CALS faculty members, to identify challenges and potential solutions within the aquaculture and African Indigenous Vegetables (AIV) value chains. While some CALS faculty members have visited these organizations and project sites in Kenya, it was the first time that we hosted these distinguished experts from Kenya at NC State. The event gave our guests the chance to interact with and hear from NC State researchers, visit university facilities and meet with university leadership. Our long-term goal is to solidify the ongoing partnerships and projects. 


Halim (far right) with East African Symposium guests on campus


What is the best or most fulfilling part of your job?

In my role, I get to see CALS faculty members tackle pressing agricultural challenges around the globe, and I learn something new from each interaction. This role has also provided me the opportunity to work with faculty members whose research I learned about and admired as a graduate student. As an NC State alumna, I find this particular opportunity very fulfilling.